Insiders Diverge on Obama's Second-Term Style
No surprises here: National Journal's Democratic and Republican Political Insiders had sharply diverging views of President Obama's newly unveiled my-way-or-the-highway style.
While 9 out of ten Democratic Insiders said the confrontational posture would be useful in enacting the President's decidedly ambitious agenda, about the same number of Republican Insiders said it was unhelpful in forwarding his priorities.
Both in his inauguration address and his first full press conference after winning re-election, Obama has made it clear that he expects congressional Republicans to play ball on his terms-markedly different from the conciliatory tone he adopted after arriving at the White House in 2009 or in the wake of the beating Democrats took in the 2010 midterms.
Will President Obama's new confrontational style be helpful in enacting his agenda?
Many Democrats said Obama's style is the kind of leadership and liveliness they've been waiting for all along.
"Most Americans feel the need for a strong leader at the helm: someone who stands for something, fights for what he believes is best for them, and, at the end of the day, drives tough bargains to get things done," said one.
"He always had the pulpit, and he has finally learned he has to become a bully to get anything done. Lyndon Johnson would be smiling," another said.
Democrats also pointed out that Obama was simply affirming the results of the election, which were anything but ambiguous.
"Memo to GOP: It's not confrontation if you are merely reciting your campaign pledges," one Democratic Insider taunted.
Others noted it was simply a matter of political necessity for Obama to exude strength.
"Well, being nice sure worked well, didn't it? Only way to fight rightwing fire is with fire," said one. Added another: "Bullies and obstructionists only understand power. The president must be resolute while always willing to talk."
Not all Republicans disagreed with the tactic the President has chosen to deploy.
"He's got the wind at his back, and he's consolidating his growing base," one GOP Insider said. "The president has figured out how to exploit the divide within the Republican House. Not until the Republicans stand united will the president need to shift strategy."
Most, nonetheless, took a dimmer view, with many Republican Insiders accusing the President of arrogance and overreach.
"Obama's arrogant, condescending treatment of his opponents does nothing to further an agenda, but it certainly feeds his ambition to be known as the Democratic Reagan," one said.
"Obama's Achilles' heel has always been his incredible arrogance, and his recent press conference and inaugural address were pure hubris," another GOP insider bristled. "Winning by 2.9 percent does not give him a mandate to roll over 48 percent of the country. Especially when he's essentially pulled a bait and switch about his true aims."
A third added: "Reagan said the purpose of a negotiation is to get an agreement. With this White House, the purpose of a negotiation is to posture."
Others said antagonizing congressional Republicans was an ill-advised strategy if the President was actually interested in getting legislation passed in a Republican Congress.
"Insulting your adversaries is seldom a 'helpful' start to negotiations," one Republican said.
"He's a terrible negotiator and compromiser, and this style gives Republicans every incentive to make him miserable: all the fun of Clinton term two without the impeachment," another chimed in.
Some Democrats too were dubious that this was the best way forward.
"We have to get things through the asylum, and his style is going to make it harder for [Speaker John] Boehner to do what he needs to," said one Democratic Insider.